Measles Outbreak Spreads Across US: How to Keep Your Kids Safe

toddler with measles

Didn't measles disappear long ago along with polio and smallpox? Apparently not. This month, over 64 cases of measles have been reported in 12 states, including Arizona, California, Colorado, Michigan, Nebraska, Oregon, Utah, and Washington. Yikes! And there's more bad news for parents.

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"Measles is the most contagious virus that we know of," says Kevin Polsley, MD, a pediatrician at Loyola University Health System. "If you're in a room with someone who's infected, breathing the same air, you have over a 90 percent chance of contracting it."

And it's not just some scratchy bumps on your body, either. Two to three deaths are reported out of every 1,000 cases.

The good news? The measles vaccine is around 95 percent effective in immunizing your kid to the disease, so the best thing you can do to protect your kids is make sure they've gotten their shots!

Typically the vaccine is given twice: once at a minimum age of 12 months, then again anywhere from 4 to 6 years old. So far, the CDC has not issued any recommendations other than to stick with this schedule; still, if you're in an area where the measles incidence is high (like southern California), pediatricians may be open to bending those rules. 

"Depending on the activity level in your area, your pediatrician may recommend vaccinating your child as young as 6 months," says Dr. Polsley. Or, if your child has already received his first shot, your pediatrician may recommend getting a second one before 4 years of age.

More from The Stir: Quiz: How Much Do You Really Know About Vaccines?

So if you're worried, ask your pediatrician about the possibility of an early vaccination. And make sure you've been vaccinated, too! Luckily in most cases, the shot people get at age 4 is effective indefinitely (or if you had measles, you're immune indefinitely too).

In addition to getting the vaccine, parents should keep an eye out for the symptoms of measles: a red, bumpy, blotchy rash all over the body, as well as a cough, fever, and red watery eyes. If you spot these symptoms, take your child to the doctor pronto!

While measles can be fatal or require hospitalization in severe cases, most times an infected child will need to just let the virus run its course at home for around two weeks.

Are you worried about this measles outbreak?

 

Image via Bartosz Budrewicz/shutterstock

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